W.Va. youth builds for speed

Kearneysville's Garrett Kysar is Soap Box Derby champ

Kearneysville's Garrett Kysar is Soap Box Derby champ

July 25, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.VA. - Fourteen-year-old Garrett Kysar and his father, Fritz, have been pretty serious about soap box derby racing recently.

They spend a lot of time doing research - focusing on issues like aerodynamics - as they prepare for the upcoming races.

When it came to building Garrett's car, the boy and his father decided to cut out a section in the bottom of the car to allow Garrett to sit lower in the vehicle and cut down on wind resistance.

"Most of it was done in my dining room, all winter long," said Jennifer Kysar, Garrett's mother.

Something must have worked.

Garrett walked away from the All-American Soap Box Derby Championship last weekend in Akron, Ohio, with a world championship title to his name.


Garrett won four rounds of racing at the annual event and won the championship in the masters division.

The Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Middle School student, who will attend the county's Ninth Grade Center this year, also won an award for having the fastest run of 28.46 seconds in one of the races, Jennifer Kysar said.

Soap box derbies are youth racing programs that date to the 1930s and world championships are held each year in Akron, Ohio. The first All-American race was in Dayton, Ohio, in 1934, and the following year it was moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain.

Garrett qualified for the championships by winning the masters division at the ROCS Classic/Norwalk Soap Box Derby in Martinsburg, W.Va., in June.

More than 500 youths from throughout the country and from Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and Guam attended the world championships, said Jennifer Kysar.

"It's a great program. Even if we wouldn't have won the first round, we would have made memories for a lifetime," Jennifer Kysar said.

It was the first time that a youth from the soap box derby race in Martinsburg has won a world championship, said Scott Schill, director of the local event.

Schill said a lot of thanks goes to George Weissgerber, the regional director of the All-American Soap Box Derby, who helped coach Garrett and his family in Saturday's event.

"It's good for Martinsburg. It's exciting for that child," Schill said.

The Levi Strauss Signature brand, the event's title sponsor, awarded Garrett and two other division champions with $5,000 scholarships.

Garrett began competing in soap box derbies in 2002 after his mother was photographing one of the events for a local magazine and thought it would be a good activity for the family to try.

Garrett competed in the Norwalk Soap Box Derby in Martinsburg in 2002 and 2003, but did not place either year. He placed in the top four in a derby in Winchester, Va., in 2004.

Garrett returned to the Norwalk Soap Box Derby in 2005 but did not place.

"This year, we just won it all," Garrett said.

Garrett was traveling at speeds of about 35 mph in the weekend competition, said Jennifer Kysar. That might not seem fast to some people, but it's quite an experience in a low-slung soap box derby car, said Garrett's 16-year-old sister, Alex, who competed in this year's ROCS Classic/Norwalk Soap Box Derby in Martinsburg.

"You feel like you're going 80 mph when you go 20 mph," Alex said.

Jennifer Kysar said her son was excited after winning his championship Saturday and referred to the victory as "sweet."

"It was real great," Garrett said as he reflected on the moment Monday at his parents' house on Harry Shirley Road.

Garrett said he likes the thrill of speed although he has never imagined going further in racing.

"I really never thought of it," Garrett said.

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